This is what clay masks actually do to your skin

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Jacqueline Kilikita
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Clay masks have officially moved from our Instagram feeds into our daily skincare routines, and there isn’t much they can’t do. Read on for your best skin ever…

If your ideal Friday night consists of cancelling plans in favour of a face mask and a glass of wine, you’re not alone.

Think With Google recently reported that searches for clay masks – especially the bubble and carbonated kind (because we’re forever thinking about Instagram opportunities, obviously) – have grown significantly since 2017, as it seems more and more of us are on the hunt for simple yet effective ways to practise self-care and, of course, to achieve much better skin.

“In general, clay masks are brilliant for deep cleansing skin and drawing out impurities,” says expert facialist, Kate Kerr, and with toxic air having been at illegal levels in the capital and most urban areas in the UK since 2010, it looks like we need all the help we can get to banish the nasties that threaten to wreak havoc on our complexions.

“Applying a clay mask is also a great way to tackle excess oil production which can lead to congested and acne prone skin,” Kate continues.

Sarah Hamilton, co-founder of Instagram-famous, Australian skincare brand, Sand & Sky, explains the trend further: “Detoxing is so huge in skincare. Most of us have blackheads and there’s always something we want to combat, whether that’s enlarged pores or spots. Clay masks act like an intense cleanse and really pull out grime, make-up and oil.”

“They are also really, really satisfying,” Hamilton continues. “Everyone loves the ‘oil pool’ that tends to collect on the surface of the skin because you can see it working and you get instant results and want to do it again and again.”

But with heaps of different kinds of clay masks out there right now, many promising to banish oil slicks, erase blemishes and impart a supermodel-esque radiance, which type is really right for your skin type?

Stylist got the experts involved to find out…

What does Australian pink clay do for skin?

Australian pink clay masks have no doubt flooded your Instagram feed thanks to their bubblegum-inspired, millennial-approved colour, but they do so much more than sit pretty.

“Pink clay masks, specifically, are a brilliant anti-inflamatory,” says Manny Barbas, founder and director of Alya Skin. “They hold moisture and other important properties like aloe, serums, peptides much better than other masks,” which explains the perfectly plump feel after using them.

“Because of the purity, there’s more of a softness to Australian pink clay,” adds Hamilton. “It has such a high clay content, which means it’s super strong on oil.” Bye, shine. 

Sand & Sky Brilliant Skin Purifying Pink Clay Mask

Adored by beauty bloggers and editors alike, this original Australian pink clay mask feels silky on application but dries down to a matte mask that works like a vacuum to eradicate excess sebum, clogged pores, grime and remnants of make-up. It smells pretty great, too.


Alya Skin Australian Pink Clay Mask

Alya Skin launched this pretty pink clay mask with 5,000 units and sold out in next to no time. Since then, the product has been flying off the shelves fast and for good reason. It banishes shine, expertly minimises the appearance of pores and leaves skin feeling soft and pillowy, never taut or uncomfortable.


What does Bentonite clay do for skin?

“Bentonite clay is known to be the most actively deep cleansing mask but it also has anti-inflammatory benefits, which is why I mainly work with it in my clinic,” says Kerr, so you can wave goodbye to redness, excess oil and spots. “It’s so great for acne-prone skin,” adds Barbas.

“A summer holiday is a really key time to use a deep cleansing clay mask as the sun can stimulate excess oil production and constant application of sunscreen can lead to congested skin,” continues Kerr. “So, having a deep cleansing mask on hand will help ensure your complexion stays clear.”

ZO Skin Health Offects Sulfur Masque

Don’t let the bright blue hue put you off. Thanks to the bentonite clay and added sulphur, this mask guzzles up excess oil and blasts whiteheads, all without drying skin out or leaving it feeling tight and uncomfortable. It does have a whiff of rotten egg about it (that’ll be the sulphur) but it works wonders on blemish-prone skin – trust us.


STARSKIN Silk Mud Green Tea Clay Mask

If you don’t fancy faffing around with brushes or digging clay out from underneath your fingernails, grab this bentonite-infused sheet mask, instead. It adheres to the skin sans slipping or sliding and uncovers a visibly brighter, smoother, more matte complexion.


What does Kaolin clay do for skin?

If your skin is prone to redness, soreness or dry patches, using a mask that harnesses kaolin clay is your best bet, as not to exacerbate skin problems. It comes in a myriad of different colours, like pink, red, yellow and white and is slightly more porous, which means it is kinder on skin when absorbing grease and grime.

“Kaolin clay is more gentle type of clay because it is slightly less drawing or harsh on the skin,” says Kerr. “This makes it more suitable for sensitive skin types.” 

Gallinee La Culture Face Mask And Scrub

With kaolin clay, lactic acid and vitamin E, this eradicates impurities from pores resurfaces skin and provides antioxidant protection from the elements. After just one go, our skin looked a hell of a low more glowy.


This Works Evening Detox Clay Mask

Kaolin clay in This Works’ detox mask snares bacteria, pollution particles and make-up left behind from your evening cleanse before they can wreak havoc on your skin. It’s a must for city-dwellers and leaves skin feeling squeaky clean, not rigid, like some other clay masks can.


What does French green clay do for skin?

French green clay takes its mossy colour from iron oxide and decomposed plant material, but don’t let the latter put you off. “French green clay is particularly soothing on problem skin,” says Kate Protopapas, founder of Isla Apothecary

It’s incredibly absorbent (making it the ultimate clay for blotting an incessantly oily T-Zone) and the ever so slight tingling sensation makes skin plump and healthy-looking. Hello, glow. 

Immunocologie Vital Clay

It might be green and a little bit slimy, but this blurs pores and imparts an otherworldly radiance like no other mask we’ve tried. Added copper, zinc, magnesium, calcium and salicylic acid repair, strengthen and help keep skin clear.


Yes To Cucumbers Calming Mud Mask

95% natural ingredients, including a hefty dose of French green clay, hydrate, cleanse and balance skin prone to excessive oiliness. Simply slather on, let it work its magic for ten minutes and rinse.


What does Rhassoul clay do for skin?

Derived from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, Rhassoul is probably one of the most effective clays for dislodging grease, grime and make-up. 

And here’s the clever part. What is harmful for the skin carries a positive charge, so Rhassoul clay uses negatively charged properties, which bind to impurities like a magnet, so you can wash them away down the sink. 


Isla Apothecary Skin Purifying Mud

Rhassoul and kaolin clay in Isla Apothecary’s 100% natural, mix-it-yourself mask are brilliant at absorbing excess oil and bacteria, while the added salicylic acid exfoliates deep down to prevent blemishes, making it the perfect potion for spot-prone skin. Add a scoop of the moss green powder to water, honey, yogurt or a skincare product of your choice - we love the Isla Apothecary Skin Balm, £35.


Optiat Nourishing Organic Hemp Face Mask

Rhassoul clay in this DIY powder mask traps bacteria, face grease and dead skin cells before they can cause spots, while marshmallow and calendula hydrate parched patches.


LUSH Cupcake Fresh Clay Mask 

Rhassoul mud in LUSH’s all-natural face mask softens and purifies skin, while the added vanilla, sandalwood oil and cocoa powder makes for a luxe aromatherapy experience.


Main Image: Getty